It’s time for another classic with Bogart and Bacall! This was still in the pre Godzilla days of cinema and those films were typically pretty intense. There are two genres in particular where classic films really shine. Kaiju adventures and mysteries. This is an example of the latter and it’s definitely a pretty compelling story. There are so many twists here that it can be pretty hard to follow, which also makes it pretty exciting!
Explaining the plot is pretty difficult as it was with the last film. The reason all of the twists and turns continue to lead into the next one so the original plot keeps adapting accordingly. Still, the plot begins with Marlowe heading into a mansion. He’s basically a private detective and he knows the ropes. “The General” hires him to get somebody out of the way…peacefully of course. This man is related to a racket that is blackmailing The General, which may be linked to the guy who ran off with Ms. Mars…or do they call her Brody now?…which may be related to Carmen’s police entanglements that could be why they found a body in the lake, which could have come from the mysterious house on the mountain, which may have something to do with all of the murders that have been occurring. Marlowe was expecting a fairly simple case, but maybe he’s bitten off more than he can chew with this case!
This film really had everything that I could have wanted from a mystery film. There are quite a few suspects and new characters continue to pop up. Marlowe makes for a pretty good detective and the film gets right to the point. It’s around 2 hours and they make sure to squeeze in as much action and suspense as possible. It’s safe to say that I preferred this one to the other film that I saw with the same lead actors. (To Have and Have Not)
Marlowe’s the main character and he is definitely better than your average lead. As I mentioned earlier, he has a lot of experience so he’s basically a pro by this point. He’s always got a witty comeback at the ready and he doesn’t take any sass from anyone. He even manages to block a slap and disarm a guy with ease. Marlowe is essentially invincible for the first half of the film. Unfortunately, he does start to crumble by the second half as he suffers two quick losses faster than the Vikings broke down against the Patriots and Saints this year! It’s a little surprising to see how quickly the tables turn on him, but I suppose that Marlowe is only human. He had to make a mistake sometime and it just happened to occur at a critical time. Through it all, Marlowe is definitely a solid character even if he does fall into the romance trap during the film.
Vivian is the main heroine of the film, although her role is a lot smaller than one would typically expect. She is around a lot to give Marlowe some advice that may or may not be true. She’s always trying to dig up some dirt on what Marlowe knows, but the detective always manages to turn her own words against her. It’s hard to tell whether she’s on his side or with the crooks since she can be rather shady. It’s time to add suspect number one to the list! She does use her romance skills to try and get Marlowe, which tends to work on the leads since it’s one of the only things that they think about. Ah well, retro films do typically have romance so it’s hard to avoid.
Eddie Mars is one of the bigshots and there’s no way that he isn’t guilty of something. The question is…is Eddie Mars The crook or just a crook? It’s hard to tell and he’s also pretty cunning so it’s hard to get any information out of him. He’s got his minions at the ready and he’s fairly powerful in the underground circuits. Messing with him could be pretty dangerous for Marlowe. They have a pretty intense meetup inside of the haunted house where guns are drawn..on multiple occasions!
Never forget that where there’s an Eddie, there is always a Joe! Joe Brody is another big shot and he lacks Eddie’s riches, but he still has enough to get by. He’s quick with a gun and his only mistake is that he likes to open the door without peering through the keyhole or asking “Who is it?” before opening. He gets his own action scene as well so show how tough he can be. We definitely can’t rub him off the list?
Don’t worry, it’s time for another gun wielding suspect in the form of Carmen Sternwood! Most of the problems are centered around her so it’s entirely possible that she is just orchestrating the entire thing. Her first scene is her trying to win Marlowe over and almost succeeding. She’s typically pretty high or emotionally unstable so it’s tough to get a read on her. With a gun..anything is possible here. We certainly can’t rule her out and she wasn’t a good character anyway. She does have her own personal minion though..so she is not as innocent as she seems.
Bernie is Marlowe’s friend who happens to be a cop. Wouldn’t it be a big twist if it was actually the really nice cop? Sure, but it may be a bit of a stretch to assume that it’s him. Of course, that could just be what I want you to think! He’s a pretty cool guy and he does send a few veiled threats at Marlowe to keep the hero honest. This guy’s one of the few people who can stand up to the hero at all!
This film does have a little more music than you would expect from the average 40’s film. I still don’t really remember any of the themes after watching it, but it’s better than nothing. This film has a decent amount of action since we get quite a few gunfights and even a quick hand to hand beatdown. There is some romance, but it’s not a whole lot so you should live.
One thing about the old films that can be amusing to see is how smart everyone is. It’s almost like every character is a genius. Not in an academic sense, but in a practical one. All of them know not to say too much and how to say it. They are all familiar with tricking the police and talking in very cryptic ways. Even breaking a code is not very tough for the main character. It’s interesting to say the least. At least this means that the hero knows how to get the jump on the villains to wrestle the gun away from them.
Overall, This was a pretty solid mystery. The writing was good and the pacing was very quick. There were many twists and even I would likely still wonder about some scenes by the end. All of the names just kind of blend together after a while and it’s hard to read the writing in such small print when they go to show the evidence. The film’s one weakness aside from the romance would likely be that they could have made the ending a little clearer. Give us some closure instead of abruptly ending. Either way, that’s good since the film will keep you guessing. It’s hard not to root for Marlowe since he’s just so great at being a detective. He really fears no one and he just continues to talk back to everyone that he meets. I highly recommend this film if you have been yearning to check out an old mystery and there is also some action to keep you interested in what’s happening. Let’s also not forget the haunted house atop the hill. This could end up as the best 1940’s film of all time! (A true feat to be sure)